Veolia Draws Upon Fukushima to Move Into Nuclear Dismantling

Veolia Environnement SA, which treated radioactive water from Japan’s nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, plans to use the experience to move into decontamination and power plant dismantling.

The water utility and the nuclear research group known as CEA plan to earn as much as 400 million euros ($534 million) in revenue within about four years by cleaning radioactive sites and taking apart installations, they said today.

“The market is developing very quickly,” Veolia Chief Executive Officer Antoine Frerot told a press conference today in Paris. About 300 nuclear reactors will have to be halted worldwide within two decades including in France, Germany, Japan and the U.S., he said.

The shift into the atomic market comes after President Francois Hollande pledged to lower France’s dependence on the energy and shut the country’s oldest plant at Fessenheim. It’s also the first new market Veolia has publicly announced it will enter into since Frerot pledged to pull out of some countries and businesses in a bid to boost profit.

The CEO is more than one year into what he described as a two-year “profound transformation” of the Paris-based utility designed to cut debt, costs, sell assets and scale back global operations. Frerot has also reshuffled the board following the departure of his predecessor Henri Proglio.

Veolia and the CEA want to oversee and coordinate large-scale nuclear projects in the “currently fragmented” market, according to Frerot. “We are independent of all nuclear operators so we have a role to play.”

The utility said it worked with Areva SA to treat 18,000 tons of highly-radioactive water from Fukushima, earning about 30 million euros in revenue.

France derives more than three quarters of its power production from 58 nuclear reactors operated by state-controlled Electricite de France SA. Dismantling nuclear installations will cost an estimated 32 billion euros, the state auditor said last year. The CEA spends about 600 million euros a year on such operations.

Frerot dismissed speculation that his relations with Proglio, who reportedly tried to oust him last year, will harm Veolia and CEA’s chances of winning orders from EDF.

“Veolia doesn’t have a problem with EDF,” Frerot said. “There may be a problem between men but there is no problem between the organizations.”

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